We are pleased to announce our 2013 Cast and Collective:
Michelle Simmons, Mezzo Soprano
A native of Newfoundland, mezzo-soprano Michelle Simmons is a graduate of the Master of Music Vocal Performance program at the University of Toronto, where she studied with soprano Lorna MacDonald. During her time at the Faculty of Music, Ms. Simmons was the recipient of the Greta Kraus Fellowship towards her studies at the University of Toronto, and was a First Place winner in her category at the NATS Ontario Student Auditions.
Ms. Simmons has a strong commitment to contemporary music. Most recently, she collaborated with the Alliance Française de Toronto to present an original, bilingual evening of song and drama based on the life and loves of Claude Debussy: Debussy Entre les Lignes (2012). Her performance during the 2010 Scotiabank Nuit Blanche Toronto, was an integral part of the avant-garde, inter-disciplinary art installation Allegory for a Rock Opera, presented by visual artist Derek Liddington. During her post-graduate studies, Ms. Simmons commissioned Canadian composer David Passmore to create a song cycle for mezzo-soprano and baritone to the words of Newfoundland-born poet E.J Pratt. Many Moods, received its premiere in the spring of 2004, thanks in part to a grant from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council.
Since relocating to Toronto, Ms. Simmons has sung with Opera by Request, Toronto Operetta Theatre, and Opera in Concert. She made her Toronto stage debut in the role of Soeur Mathilde in Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. Other opera roles include Sesto in Handel’s Julius Caesar, Lisetta in Haydn’s Voyage to the Moon, and Third Lady in Mozart’s Magic Flute. During the summer of 2010, Ms. Simmons performed the role of Minerve in a touring production of Offenbach’s Orphée aux Enfers in the south of France.
Ms. Simmons has participated in Masterclasses in association with the Franco American Vocal Academy (FAVA), Summer Opera Lyric Theatre of Toronto (SOLT), the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS), and the University of Toronto. She has coached with such renowned artists as Martin Isepp, Sir Thomas Allen, Stuart Hamilton, Liz Upchurch, Bo Skovhus and Catherine Robbin.
Ms. Simmons currently makes her home in Toronto, Canada, where in addition to her performance career, she also works as Program Assistant at University Settlement Music & Arts School, a non-for-profit community music school located in the downtown core.
For more information on Michelle, please visit her website, msimmons.drupalgardens.com
Geoffrey Sirett, Baritone
Baritone Geoffrey Sirett is a recent graduate of the University of Toronto where he completed a Master of Music degree in opera under the tutelage of Lorna MacDonald. Geoffrey holds a Bachelor of Music and Artist Diploma from the University of Western Ontario, where he received the Gold Medal. On stage he has performed leading roles in Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte, Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, Bernstein’s Candide, Haydn’s Il Mondo della Luna, Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci, Lehar’s The Merry Widow, Ullmann’s Der Kaiser von Atlantis, Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, and Britten’s Albert Herring.
In 2010 Geoffrey sang the role of ‘Il Conte’ in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro as a fellowship student of the Aspen Opera Theater Center, studying under Dr. Stephen King. In 2011he returned to perform ‘Snug’ in Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and ‘Diesel’ in Bernstein’s West Side Story, and will return in 2012 to perform ‘Nick Carraway’ in Harbison’s The Great Gatsby.
Geoffrey was a winner in the Canadian Conservatory Vocal Competition, the Czech and Slovak International Voice Competition, district winner and regional finalist of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in 2010, 2011 and 2012, and most recently received 2nd place and the “Best Performance of a Canadian Work” Award at the 2011 OSM Standard Life Competition. Geoffrey is a three-time grant recipient of the Jacqueline Desmarais Foundation for young Canadian opera singers, and winner of the 2010 Vancouver Opera Guild Career Development Grant.
On the concert stage, Geoffrey has performed a wide variety of oratorio and concert works, including most recently Handel’s Messiah and Bach’s Weihnachts-Oratorium with the Kingston Symphony, Faure’s Requiem and Vaughan Williams’ Dona Nobis Pacem with the Buffalo Philharmonic, Bach cantatas with the Kingston and Chautauqua Symphonies, and Eötvös’s Snatches of a Conversation with the Aspen Contemporary Orchestra. Geoffrey has appeared in recital across Canada and the U.S., including performances with the Aldeburgh Connection and Bayfield Festival of Song with pianist Stephen Ralls, Van Cliburn Foundation with composer/pianist Ricky Ian Gordon, and the Chautauqua Institution with pianists Craig Rutenberg and Mikael Eliasen. As winner of the 2010 Jim and Charlotte Norcop Song Prize, Geoffrey presented a recital with pianist Martin Katz.
Geoffrey’s debut album, Vagabond, with pianist Stephen Ralls, was released in December 2011. The CD includes Vaughan Williams’ Songs of Travel, Butterworth’s Six Songs from ‘A Shropshire Lad’, and Britten’s Folksong Arrangements, as well as premiere recordings of two Canadian compositions by Jocelyn Morlock and Ivan Barbotin.
William Reid, Tenor
William Reid has just this year received his Bachelor of Education from OISE at the University of Toronto. He had previously completed his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music in Voice Studies. As a tenor, Will sings in many accomplished choirs in Toronto including The Amadeus Choir, The Nathaniel Dett Chorale and The Larkin Singers.
In his solo endeavours, Will has performed with the Canadian Sinfonietta as the baritone soloist in the Faure Requiem as well as the tenor lead in Paul McCartney’s Liverpool Oratorio with the Ridley College Choir. When he is not teaching or singing classical music, Will is the front man of the funk and classic rock band Yasgurs Farm which boasts some of Toronto’s best young artists. This 11-piece band has been together for two years and enjoys getting together to play fun and upbeat shows around the city.
Will is very excited to be a part of this great project and is looking forward to having a cardio-filled tour!
Larissa Koniuk, Soprano
Larissa Koniuk is a Toronto-based singer, actor, and avid cyclist. She is interested in all genres, but is especially drawn to new works that are collaborative in nature. Most recently, she co-founded Bicycle Opera, producing and performing in six contemporary opera scenes in venues across Ontario last June and at the Green Door Cabaret in December. In 2012: she premiered Thin Straight Lines, a song cycle for soprano and quartet by Anna Höstman and presented the Toronto premiere of Adam Scime’s work, Images of John A Wilson, a mini opera for soprano in addition to performing in the the premier of Taptoo!, a new opera by John Beckwith with Toronto Operetta Theatre and in Like an Old Tale, Jumblies’ massive multi-disciplinary puppet-opera adaptation of a Winter’s Tale with an original opera score by Juliet Palmer. She has appeared in a modern Toronto-based La Bohème with Against the Grain Theatre, a theatre company that is re-envisioning classic works for contemporary audiences, which often involves bringing Puccini to the bar.
She holds a vocal performance degree from Wilfred Laurier University, and since completing her degree, has found herself singing many genres outside of opera. Her work ranges from being regularly featured as a soloist with H2Orchestra, an ensemble of hydraulophones, or water instruments, to singing as a soloist in the Messiah with Cantala Women’s Ensemble, to singing French cabaret songs with many groups, including a burlesque troupe, Revue Royal. She also sings around Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo with her jazz project, 13 James, with pianist Duncan Macaulay.
Other appearances include Annina in La Traviata and Beth in The Tenderland (Summer Opera Lyric Theatre), The Mayor in The Happy Prince (Singer’s Theatre), and premieres: Nola in Metamorphorically Speakin’, Mother in The Golden Goose (Solar Stage), Dana in The Good Body (Toronto V-Day), Sap (an adventurous baby tree) in Rhythm Is, by Clara Hilts, and Dot in Female Hysteria: A Burlesque Musical Comedy, by Kara Harun, in which all performers collaborated as dramaturgs, script-writers, and musical arrangers.
When not performing, Larissa can be found hiking in the Grand Canyon, canoeing or cycling around Ontario, sitting in her vegetable garden, or playing ukulele.
Upcoming performances include:
The Handless Maiden, a one-act monodrama for soprano and electroacoustic by Wende Bartley at the Toronto Storytelling Festival, March 24th at Daniels Spectrum (Regent Park Arts & Cultural Centre) and a workshop performance of a new opera by Adam Scime with FAWN in May.
Katherine Watson, Flute
Katherine Watson is a fresh up-and-coming Toronto flautist, who recently completed her Artist’s Diploma Program at the the prestigious Glenn Gould School (GGS) of The Royal Conservatory (RCM) for flute, studying with Leslie Newman. She is in high demand as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral flautist, and has performed many world premiers of newly composed music, several of which have been recorded and broadcast on CBC Radio 2. Katherine currently performs with the Sneak Peek Orchestra, the Bicycle Opera Project, the Toy Piano Composer’s ensemble, the Heliconian Orchestra, and the new chamber group Musica Reflecta. In the past, Katherine has performed with Pendulum Ensemble, The Royal Conservatory Orchestra, the RCM New Music ensemble, the U of T Symphony Orchestra, the U of T Contemporary Music Ensemble, Wind Ensemble, Wind Symphony, and the Sir Ernest McMillian Chainsaw Gang. She has recorded for local film makers Andrew Cividio and J. Adam Brown, musician Emilie Mover and funk band Jay Spectre. Katherine teaches both flute and piano privately in the Toronto area. Katherine is the recipient of the 2011 Bobcaygeon Music Council Bursary.
Leslie Ting, Violin
A native of Kitchener, Ontario, Leslie premiered in 2010 with the Orchestre del’Université de Montréal as a laureate of the Concours de l’Orchestre de l’Université de Montréal, performing Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 1 with conductor Jean-François Rivest. She has also performed as soloist the Concerto for Violin and String Orchestra by Canadian composer Marjan Mozetich, and Astor Piazzolla’s Four Seasons with Ensemble Arkea in Montreal.
An avid chamber musician, Leslie has performed in London, England as a member of the Adoch Trio with Hiro Takenouchi, piano and Dongkyun An, cello. Strad magazine praised the ensemble for creating “fire without smoke.” She has since shared the stage with Paul Neubauer, Scott St John and Paul Watkins.
Other performances have included on-stage theatrical productions in Montreal and Switzerland. Leslie also composed and performed original music for the short film Knife by Montreal-based filmmaker Nancy Baric which has screened in the US, Canada and Russia.
Leslie’s 2012/2013 season includes Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with Christine Vlajk, violist of the Penderecki String Quartet, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Chamber Orchestra as well as recitals with Vancouver-based pianist, Sarah Hagen.
Leslie holds a Master’s and Artist’s Diploma from Université de Montréal, and has worked with various artists at the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, Austria, and the Kayaleh Academy in Switzerland.
Wesley Shen, Music Director, Piano
Wesley Shen is a pianist and harpsichordist working and residing in Toronto. He has recently completed both a Bachelor of Music in Piano and an Advanced Certificate in Performance on Harpsichord from the University of Toronto, studying with Lynda Metelsky and Kevin Komisaruk. His focus has been primarily in contemporary and new music, collaborating with many composers and performers, such as the Toy Piano Composers and Pendulum Ensemble, to bring new works and projects to life. His personal project has been to help revive the harpsichord as a contemporary medium, through education, collaboration and performance. He also maintains a strong interest in Baroque performance practice, studying and working with Daniel Taylor, Charlotte Nedigar, Ivars Taurins and Tafelmusik Orchestra.
Wesley performs regularly in Toronto, in various solo, chamber and orchestral settings. He is an accomplished performer and accompanist, working on piano and harpsichord with both vocalists and instrumentalists. He continues to work closely with the Sneak Peek Orchestra, Musica Reflecta, and The Toy Piano Composers. Recent performances include the Toronto Symphony Orchestra concerts featuring soloist Anne-Sophie Mutter, a performance of Charles Wuorinen’s Percussion Symphony with New Music Concerts, and the 2011 summer tour of the National Youth Orchestra of Canada.
Michael Mori, Stage Director
Michael Mori is currently the associate artistic director at Tapestry New Opera. He has a solid combination of artistic and administrative experience including twenty years as a performer and recording artist, seven years as a director, and seven years working in administration including UBC Opera, musica intima, and now Tapestry. Michael began performing as a boy in NYC. Since then, his training has encompassed theatre, dance, and music, including a Masters in Opera Performance. Previous to moving to Toronto, he was a singer, co-Artistic Director, and Artistic Coordinator with Vancouver’s musica intima and with them has toured Europe, been nominated for a Juno, and won best classical album in Western Canada. Michael is a pleased to have had his Toronto directing debut with Tapestry for Opera Briefs and Pub Operas in 2011 and for the New Opera Showcase in March of 2012. As the Metcalf Intern, and in addition administrative responsibilities, Michael is currently being mentored under Wayne Strongman and Tom Diamond as a director and conductor.
Adam Scime, Composer in Residence
As a young composer and performer living in Toronto, Adam Scime has been praised as “…a fantastic success…” (CBC) and “…clever…charged…” (Torontoist). Adam has received several performances by Canadian and International professional soloists and ensembles. Recently, Adam was selected to participate in the Chrysalis Composers Workshop with the Continuum Contemporary Ensemble, during which his piece Fixity was performed under the baton of Christopher Butterfield. In the summer of 2010, it was announced that Adam’s piece “Vagues, a Prelude for Piano and Electronics” was selected as the winning composition for the Electro- Acoustic Composers Competition hosted by acclaimed American pianist Keith Kirchoff. Subsequently, Mr. Kirchoff performed “Vagues” as part of his 2011 North American Tour. In January of 2011, renowned Canadian soloist Nadina Mackie Jackson premiered Adam’s “Concerto for Bassoon, Electronics, and Chamber Orchestra.” Adam was also appointed Composer in residence with the GamUT contemporary ensemble for the 2010/2011 concert season, a residency that saw the commissioning of two new works, and one new installation.
In March of 2011, New Music Concerts premiered Adam’s new trio, “After the rioT, for Flute, Double Bass, and Piano” for a concert celebrating the music of Jonathan Harvey. In the spring of 2011, Adam was selected by The Canadian Contemporary Music Workshop to write a piece for a concert commemorating the passing of Canadian composer Ann Southam. In early 2012, the premiere of Adam’s new Opera, “Rob Ford An Operatic Life” attracted an audience of over 800 people, and was received with much critical praise. In March of 2012, Adam’s piece “Mirage” was selected as the winning composition in the Esprit Orchestra composition competition. “Mirage” was subsequently performed as part of Esprit’s regular season and broadcast on CBC Radio. Most recently, Adam was awarded the 2012 Karen Kieser Prize in Canadian music.
Future projects include a commission from The Jumblies Theatre Company for Soprano, Cello, Choir, and Electronics, and a large chamber work commissioned by New Music Concerts for the 2012/2013 concert season. Adam has also been selected to participate in the 2012 National Arts Centre composer training program, and the Vocalypse “Opera From Scratch” workshop. Adam is continually seeking new ways to become involved in the local new music community. He recently created a new concert series, known as “Fuze,” in Toronto as a vehicle to promote the creation and performance of new Canadian works that feature electronics.
In addition to his activities as a composer, Adam also performs regularly as a double bassist. Interesting performance projects have included performances with the Array Contemporary Ensemble, Toronto’s 2009 Nuit Blanche Arts Festival, during which Adam performed under music director Brian Current for a performance of James Tenney’s installation piece, “In a Large Open Space.” In December of 2011, Adam performed double bass in Juliet Palmer’s massive theatre creation, “Like an Old Tale.” In January 2012, Adam traveled to China with the Ontario Festival Orchestra on a tour of five cities over a two-week period. Adam is currently studying with Gary Kulesha at the University of Toronto where he has been awarded a full fellowship to study as a Doctoral student in composition. Previous to his current position at U of T, Adam studied composition at The University of Western Ontario, where his teachers included Peter Paul Koprowski and Paul Frehner. Adam has also received private lessons with Anders Hillborg, Chen Yi, and Osvaldo Golijov.
Alex Samaras, Associate Producer
Alex Samaras is quickly becoming one of Canada’s leading vocalists in the jazz and new music scene. Alex studied vocal performance in the jazz program at the University of Toronto and at the Banff Center’s Creative Music Program. Alex also spent time working in New York City with contemporary arts icon Meredith Monk and her vocal ensemble performing in concert versions of Monks work and multi-disciplinary performances.
In Toronto he is currently performing with his own trio, the Toronto Jazz Orchestra and ”A Sondheim Jazz Project.” Alex is the founder and artistic director of his own 8 voice group GREX which performs new and experimental vocal works and which was featured in the Music Gallery’s EMERGENTS series for up and coming artists. Last year, he was selected into the Young Center Emerging Artists Program under the mentorship of Greg Oh. He is at the Young Centre this year as a guest conductor with their “Young Centre City Choir.” This coming season Alex will be teaching at the University of Toronto and Humber College in the Jazz Departments.
He can be heard on a number of recordings including Toronto bands THOMAS, Steven McKay and his first recording project ’ninety-two’ with his experimental/folk/improv group Old Salt. (see Projects)
Alex teaches privately and has worked in schools and camps across Canada and the United States leading improvisational theater workshops and music/voice masterclasses.
Believing that continued training is essential, Alex studies voice with Jeannie Lovetri and theatre with Peter Wylde at The Wylde Project.